A CANCER centre delivering state of the art treatment will begin taking patients from the end of this month, writes Ian Dipple.
Worcestershire Oncology Centre will officially open during the week of January 26 and will revolutionise the way the county’s cancer patients are treated by allowing radiotherapy to be delivered for the first time in Worcestershire.
It will elimate the one million miles a year of travelling patients were clocking up between them for such treatment at hospitals in Coventry, Cheltenham and Wolverhampton.
A total of 24,000 patient visits will take place at the centre every year with 1,200 new cases of cancer expected annually. Breast and prostate cancer patients will be amongst the first to be treated in the new building but it will also have the ability to deal with skin cancer patients.
Radiotherapy manager Michelle Price said the time and distance patients were having to travel was the main driver behind the project.
“It’s taken the best part of ten years from the inception of the idea when Adel Makar, our lead cancer consultant, started thinking about what patients needs were in Worcestershire,” she said.
“There’s only been a couple of brand new units like this in the country for the last 30 years.”
The £24.5million centre has the advantage of being designed with the input of patients and includes lots of bright colours, windows to let in plenty of light and images of local parks to make people feel more at home.
The Worcestershire Black Pear has even been included in the centre’s new logo while there is also a coffee shop and Macmillan Support Unit providing information to patients and their families.
The centre has been equipped with the latest technology including a CT scanner with 4D imaging allowing highly detailed pictures of tumours to be produced.
The latest computer software is then used to map the pattern of beams that will be used to attack the tumour, ensuring as little radiation as possible hits vital organs, crucial in tackling complex cancers such as those around the head and neck.
The treatment itself will then be delivered on one of three LINAC machines which can deliver radioactive beams accurate to within a milimetre.
Outpatient clincs and diagnostic testing will continue to be provide locally at all three of the county’s hospitals as will chemotherapy to ensure as much care as possible is delivered as close to people’s doorsteps.
Final testing is being carried out to ensure the centre is ready to open which will ensure 95 per cent of radiotherapy and almost all chemotherapy is delivered in Worcestershire. There is already one eye on the future with room to expand further as demand and technology changes.
A team of 70 new staff have been recruited to run the new unit including 30 radiographers and eight consultant oncologists stretching from Sheffield to Devon. Experts from University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire, which helped develop the centre, are also involved.
Among the new staff is Dean Carrabin, a radiographer who lives in Redditch and has been working with patients in Coventry prior to joining the team. He said patients from across Worcestershire would feel the benefits.
“A lot of the patients we used to treat from Redditch and Bromsgrove in Coventry would say it took up to an hour to get there, then there was parking, if they were stuck in traffic they would worry they would miss their appointment and then they would be in the department for ten or 15 minutes have their treatment and go, so it was taking up their whole day whether it was an afternoon or morning appointment,” he said.
“Living in the area we can see this will be much less stressful for them and they will be able to carry on with their normal lives. Currently they feel they have to put their lives on hold while they are having treatment.
“Radiotheraphy departments are normally tucked away in basements or out on their own. This has been built with the patients in mind and you can see that and it’s nice to work in a place like that.
“It’s been talked about for so long we just can’t wait to get started.”